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The Little Prince, Page 3

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  "Hum! Hum!" replied the king; and before saying anything else he consulted a bulky almanac. "Hum! Hum! That will be about -- about -- that will be this evening about twenty minutes to eight. And you will see how well I am obeyed!"

  The little prince yawned. He was regretting his lost sunset. And then, too, he was already beginning to be a little bored.

  "I have nothing more to do here," he said to the king. "So I shall set out on my way again."

  "Do not go," said the king, who was very proud of having a subject. "Do not go. I will make you a Minister!"

  "Minister of what?"

  "Minster of -- of Justice!"

  "But there is nobody here to judge!"

  "We do not know that," the king said to him. "I have not yet made a complete tour of my kingdom. I am very old. There is no room here for a carriage. And it tires me to walk."

  "Oh, but I have looked already!" said the little prince, turning around to give one more glance to the other side of the planet. On that side, as on this, there was nobody at all...

  "Then you shall judge yourself," the king answered. "that is the most difficult thing of all. It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom."

  "Yes," said the little prince, "but I can judge myself anywhere. I do not need to live on this planet."

  "Hum! Hum!" said the king. "I have good reason to believe that somewhere on my planet there is an old rat. I hear him at night. You can judge this old rat. From time to time you will condemn him to death. Thus his life will depend on your justice. But you will pardon him on each occasion; for he must be treated thriftily. He is the only one we have."

  "I," replied the little prince, "do not like to condemn anyone to death. And now I think I will go on my way."

  "No," said the king.

  But the little prince, having now completed his preparations for departure, had no wish to grieve the old monarch.

  "If Your Majesty wishes to be promptly obeyed," he said, "he should be able to give me a reasonable order. He should be able, for example, to order me to be gone by the end of one minute. It seems to me that conditions are favorable..."

  As the king made no answer, the little prince hesitated a moment. Then, with a sigh, he took his leave.

  "I make you my Ambassador," the king called out, hastily.

  He had a magnificent air of authority.

  "The grown-ups are very strange," the little prince said to himself, as he continued on his journey.


  The second planet was inhabited by a conceited man.

  "Ah! Ah! I am about to receive a visit from an admirer!" he exclaimed from afar, when he first saw the little prince coming. For, to conceited men, all other men are admirers.

  "Good morning," said the little prince. "That is a queer hat you are wearing."

  "It is a hat for salutes," the conceited man replied. "It is to raise in salute when people acclaim me. Unfortunately, nobody at all ever passes this way."

  "Yes?" said the little prince, who did not understand what the conceited man was talking about.

  "Clap your hands, one against the other," the conceited man now directed him.

  The little prince clapped his hands. The conceited man raised his hat in a modest salute.

  "This is more entertaining than the visit to the king," the little prince said to himself. And he began again to clap his hands, one against the other. The conceited man again raised his hat in salute.

  After five minutes of this exercise the little prince grew tired of the game's monotony.

  "And what should one do to make the hat come down?" he asked.

  But the conceited man did not hear him. Conceited people never hear anything but praise.

  "Do you really admire me very much?" he demanded of the little prince.

  "What does that mean -- 'admire'?"

  "To admire means that you regard me as the handsomest, the best-dressed, the richest, and the most intelligent man on this planet."

  "But you are the only man on your planet!"

  "Do me this kindness. Admire me just the same."

  "I admire you," said the little prince, shrugging his shoulders slightly, "but what is there in that to interest you so much?"

  And the little prince went away.

  "The grown-ups are certainly very odd," he said to himself, as he continued on his journey.


  The next planet was inhabited by a tippler. This was a very short visit, but it plunged the little prince into deep dejection.

  "What are you doing there?" he said to the tippler, whom he found settled down in silence before a collection of empty bottles and also a collection of full bottles.

  I am drinking," replied the tippler, with a lugubrious air.

  "Why are you drinking?" demanded the little prince.

  "So that I may forget," replied the tippler.

  "Forget what?" inquired the little prince, who already was sorry for him.

  "Forget that I am ashamed," the tippler confessed, hanging his head.

  "Ashamed of what?" insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.

  "Ashamed of drinking!" The tippler brought his speech to an end, and shut himself up in an impregnable silence.

  And the little prince went away, puzzled.

  "The grown-ups are certainly very, very odd," he said to himself, as he continued on his journey.


  The fourth planet belonged to a businessman. This man was so much occupied that he did not even raise his head at the little prince's arrival.

  "Good morning," the little prince said to him. "Your cigarette has gone out."

  "Three and two make five. Five and seven make twelve. Twelve and three make fifteen. Good morning. Fifteen and seven make twenty-two. Twenty-two and six make twenty-eight. I haven't time to light it again. Twenty-six and five make thirty-one. Phew! Then that makes five-hundred-and-one million, six-hundred-twenty-two-thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one."

  "Five hundred million what?" asked the little prince.

  "Eh? Are you still there? Five-hundred-and-one million -- I can't stop... I have so much to do! I am concerned with matters of consequence. I don't amuse myself with balderdash. Two and five make seven..."

  "Five-hundred-and-one million what?" repeated the little prince, who never in his life had let go of a question once he had asked it.

  The businessman raised his head.

  "During the fifty-four years that I have inhabited this planet, I have been disturbed only three times. The first time was twenty-two years ago, when some giddy goose fell from goodness knows where. He made the most frightful noise that resounded all over the place, and I made four mistakes in my addition. The second time, eleven years ago, I was disturbed by an attack of rheumatism. I don't get enough exercise. I have no time for loafing. The third time -- well, this is it! I was saying, then, five-hundred-and-one millions -- "

  "Millions of what?"

  The businessman suddenly realized that there was no hope of being left in peace until he answered this question.

  "Millions of those little objects," he said, "which one sometimes sees in the sky."


  "Oh, no. Little glittering objects."


  "Oh, no. Little golden objects that set lazy men to idle dreaming. As for me, I am concerned with matters of consequence. There is no time for idle dreaming in my life."

  "Ah! You mean the stars?"

  "Yes, that's it. The stars."

  "And what do you do with five-hundred millions of stars?"

  "Five-hundred-and-one million, six-hundred-twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one. I am concerned with matters of consequence: I am accurate."

  "And what do you do with these stars?"

  "What do I do with them?"


  "Nothing. I own them."

  "You own the stars?"


  "But I have already seen a king who -- "

  "Kings do not own, they reign over. It is a very different matter."

  "And what good does it do you to own the stars?"

  "It does me the good of making me rich."

  "And what good does it do you to be rich?"

  "It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are discovered."

  "This man," the little prince said to himself, "reasons a little like my poor tippler..."

  Nevertheless, he still had some more questions.

  "How is it possible for one to own the stars?"

  "To whom do they belong?" the businessman retorted, peevishly.

  "I don't know. To nobody."

  "Then they belong to me, because I was the first person to think of it."

  "Is that all that is necessary?"

  "Certainly. When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you get an idea before any one else, you take out a patent on it: it is yours. So with me: I own the stars, because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them."

  "Yes, that is true," said the little prince. "And what do you do with them?"

  "I administer them," replied the businessman. "I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence."

  The little prince was still not satisfied.

  "If I owned a silk scarf," he said, "I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven..."

  "No. But I can put them in the bank."

  "Whatever does that mean?"

  "That means that I write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then I put this paper in a drawer and lock it with a key."

  "And that is all?"

  "That is enough," said the businessman.

  "It is entertaining," thought the little prince. "It is rather poetic. But it is of no great consequence."

  On matters of consequence, the little prince had ideas which were very different from those of the grown-ups.

  "I myself own a flower," he continued his conversation with the businessman, "which I water every day. I own three volcanoes, which I clean out every week (for I also clean out the one that is extinct; one never knows). It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them. But you are of no use to the stars..."

  The businessman opened his mouth, but he found nothing to say in answer. And the little prince went away.

  "The grown-ups are certainly altogether extraordinary," he said simply, talking to himself as he continued on his journey.


  The fifth planet was very strange. It was the smallest of all. There was just enough room on it for a street lamp and a lamplighter. The little prince was not able to reach any explanation of the use of a street lamp and a lamplighter, somewhere in the heavens, on a planet which had no people, and not one house. But he said to himself, nevertheless: "It may well be that this man is absurd. But he is not so absurd as the king, the conceited man, the businessman, and the tippler. For at least his work has some meaning. When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep. That is a beautiful occupation. And since it is beautiful, it is truly useful."

  When he arrived on the planet he respectfully saluted the lamplighter.

  "Good morning. Why have you just put out your lamp?"

  "Those are the orders," replied the lamplighter. "Good morning."

  "What are the orders?"

  "The orders are that I put out my lamp. Good evening."

  And he lighted his lamp again.

  "But why have you just lighted it again?"

  "Those are the orders," replied the lamplighter.

  "I do not understand," said the little prince.

  "There is nothing to understand," said the lamplighter. "Orders are orders. Good morning."

  And he put out his lamp. Then he mopped his forehead with a handkerchief decorated with red squares.

  "I follow a terrible profession. In the old days it was reasonable. I put the lamp out in the morning, and in the evening I lighted it again. I had the rest of the day for relaxation and the rest of the night for sleep."

  "And the orders have been changed since that time?"

  "The orders have not been changed," said the lamplighter. "That is the tragedy! From year to year the planet has turned more rapidly and the orders have not been changed!"

  "Then what?" asked the little prince.

  "Then -- the planet now makes a complete turn every minute, and I no longer have a single second for repose. Once every minute I have to light my lamp and put it out!"

  "That is very funny! A day lasts only one minute, here where you live!"

  "It is not funny at all!" said the lamplighter. "While we have been talking together a month has gone by."

  "A month?"

  "Yes, a month. Thirty minutes. Thirty days. Good evening."

  And he lighted his lamp again. As the little prince watched him, he felt that he loved this lamplighter who was so faithful to his orders. He remembered the sunsets which he himself had gone to seek, in other days, merely by pulling up his chair; and he wanted to help his friend.

  "You know," he said, "I can tell you a way you can rest whenever you want to..."

  "I always want to rest," said the lamplighter.

  For it is possible for a man to be faithful and lazy at the same time. The little prince went on with his explanation: "Your planet is so small that three strides will take you all the way around it. To be always in the sunshine, you need only walk along rather slowly. When you want to rest, you will walk -- and the day will last as long as you like."

  "That doesn't do me much good," said the lamplighter. "The one thing I love in life is to sleep."

  "Then you're unlucky," said the little prince.

  "I am unlucky," said the lamplighter. "Good morning."

  And he put out his lamp.

  "That man," said the little prince to himself, as he continued farther on his journey, "that man would be scorned by all the others: by the king, by the conceited man, by the tippler, by the businessman. Nevertheless he is the only one of them all who does not seem to me ridiculous. Perhaps that is because he is thinking of something else besides himself."

  He breathed a sigh of regret, and said to himself, again: "That man is the only one of them all whom I could have made my friend. But his planet is indeed too small. There is no room on it for two people..."

  What the little prince did not dare confess was that he was sorry most of all to leave this planet, because it was blest every day with 1440 sunsets!


  The sixth planet was ten times larger than the last one. It was inhabited by an old gentleman who wrote voluminous books.

  "Oh, look! Here is an explorer!" he exclaimed to himself when he saw the little prince coming.

  The little prince sat down on the table and panted a little. He had already traveled so much and so far!

  "Where do you come from?" the old gentleman said to him.

  "What is that big book?" said the little prince. "What are you doing?"

  "I am a geographer," said the old gentleman.

  "What is a geographer?" asked the little prince.

  "A geographer is a scholar who knows the location of all the seas, rivers, towns, mountains, and deserts."

  "That is very interesting," said the little prince. "Here at last is a man who has a real profession!" And he cast a look around him at the planet of the geographer. It was the most magnificent and stately planet that he had ever seen.

  "Your planet is very beautiful," he said. "Has it any oceans?"

  "I couldn't tell you," said the geographer.

  "Ah!" The little prince was
disappointed. "Has it any mountains?"

  "I couldn't tell you," said the geographer.

  "And towns, and rivers, and deserts?"

  "I couldn't tell you that, either."

  "But you are a geographer!"

  "Exactly," the geographer said. "But I am not an explorer. I haven't a single explorer on my planet. It is not the geographer who goes out to count the towns, the rivers, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, and the deserts. The geographer is much too important to go loafing about. He does not leave his desk. But he receives the explorers in his study. He asks them questions, and he notes down what they recall of their travels. And if the recollections of any one among them seem interesting to him, the geographer orders an inquiry into that explorer's moral character."

  "Why is that?"

  "Because an explorer who told lies would bring disaster on the books of the geographer. So would an explorer who drank too much."

  "Why is that?" asked the little prince.

  "Because intoxicated men see double. Then the geographer would note down two mountains in a place where there was only one."

  "I know some one," said the little prince, "who would make a bad explorer."

  "That is possible. Then, when the moral character of the explorer is shown to be good, an inquiry is ordered into his discovery."

  "One goes to see it?"

  "No. That would be too complicated. But one requires the explorer to furnish proofs. For example, if the discovery in question is that of a large mountain, one requires that large stones be brought back from it."

  The geographer was suddenly stirred to excitement.

  "But you -- you come from far away! You are an explorer! You shall describe your planet to me!"

  And, having opened his big register, the geographer sharpened his pencil. The recitals of explorers are put down first in pencil. One waits until the explorer has furnished proofs, before putting them down in ink.

  "Well?" said the geographer expectantly.

  "Oh, where I live," said the little prince, "it is not very interesting. It is all so small. I have three volcanoes. Two volcanoes are active and the other is extinct. But one never knows."

  "One never knows," said the geographer.

  "I have also a flower."

  "We do not record flowers," said the geographer.

  "Why is that? The flower is the most beautiful thing on my planet!"

  "We do not record them," said the geographer, "because they are ephemeral."